Picture it. The year was 1999. I began my last semester of high school. In the fall semester, I filled out and sent off only TWO college applications (much to the chagrin of my college counselor). I received word back from both by January. After being admitted to both, one offered me $300 a semester for books. The other, my eventual undergrad alma mater -- Centenary College of Louisiana -- miraculously offered me a full scholarship covering tuition, room, and board. After doing some cost-benefit analysis, even I realized that fully free was better than a $300 coupon.
Indeed, life was looking pretty good for a young William Ryan Pritchard. After over a decade in school, I had made it. College for free! My intelligence and above average work ethic had been handsomely rewarded far better than I deserved. Mission accomplished! Clearly, I deserved to coast, right? Surely, I could allow the dreaded Senioritis to envelop me in its warm, lazy, hedonistic cocoon.
As it turned out, my college scholarship was contingent on keeping a 3.5 GPA throughout high school. Going into that spring semester of senior year, I hovered at something like a 3.52. If I had attended high school nearly anywhere else in America, keeping the 3.5 would have been a cakewalk. I didn’t attend just any high school, though. I spent my junior and senior campaigns at Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, one of the most rigorous public high schools in the United States. Every quiz mattered if I were going to keep that college scholarship. Every assignment? Mattered. Every paper? Mattered.
In the end, I was forced to stay on my toes throughout the whole final semester of high school to set myself up for a more successful life. In the end, I was grateful that I did not have the option of coasting. Because I never had the luxury of downshifting from fifth gear to second (… or first… or neutral), I kept working as if the coming transition to college was not such a big deal that it required me to take a really lame four month vacation where I continued to show up to school but existed as an apathetic zombie.
Instead, during my first semester, I found myself surrounded by lots of other college freshmen who still had Acute Senioritis three to four months after they graduated high school. Students skipped 9 a.m. (even 2 p.m.) classes with reckless abandon. Dudes would just hang out in their dorm rooms for days at a time and play Goldeneye or Madden without regard for the normal rules of time or hygiene. The same dudes only ventured out of their dorm rooms for lunch and dinner in the dining hall. Like a sasquatch, they would lumber quietly into the cafeteria, grab a burger and return back to their overpriced increasingly squalid campus hovel.
Some of those students broke out of it after getting a less-than-desirable first semester report card (and an earful from their parents). They snapped out of it and realized the error of their ways, going on to become good students who eventually had meaningful lives and careers. To be sure, a senioritis diagnosis need not be terminal. It does create a habit of inertia that many people find is hard to overcome though.
Sadly, just as many of those students rarely completed college. They lost their scholarships by the end of their first or second semester. They ended up taking 100-level classes two or three times before finally just giving up and going home. Unfortunately, senioritis became a chronic debilitation that extended beyond high school into the rest of their academic lives. Even worse, those students who did not make it through college were now on the hook for student loan payments for the next decade.
Again, as a graduate teaching assistant and university instructor, I saw the same pattern hold true. Not all students who engaged in senioritis struggled in college and dropped out; however, every student I encountered in office hours who struggled in college and eventually dropped out had developed a habit of disengagement in their own education that dated back to high school.
Just to make sure that I wasn’t making this connection too quickly, I reached out to a couple of my previous Episcopal students who are currently in their Freshman year at large state universities. When I asked those Episcopal alums about the toughest part about the transition to college, most echoed the same sentiments. Going from a school like Episcopal where all teachers, administrators, and college counselors knew your name to a large university with large blocks of time between classes where no one checks in on you was tough. One student claimed, “Everyone warns you about academics, too much partying, and living away from home, but nobody really ever talks about how having such an inconsistent schedule can pose a problem when beginning college.” This student did not fall prey to senioritis in the final year at Episcopal, but wondered in our conversation how someone could let off the gas in high school and still handle the transition to a place like LSU, Texas A&M, or University of Alabama seamlessly. “I absolutely think it would be harder,” she said. “It takes a great deal of self control and time management to be able to negotiate a schedule like I had with ease.”
So, as seniors round the bend with graduation and college in sight, I have some suggestions about how and why to combat senioritis:
Seniors, stop thinking about life as having a finish line. You’re never actually finished. The dynamic, interesting, and successful people never reach the finish line. At least none of the ones I’ve worked with or encountered in my relatively short life. They always keep one eye on the present and one eye looking for the next adventure. Read any biography of a person you admire who has had long-term success in business, athletics, politics, or any other pursuit. Nearly all of them talk in terms of never settling but also sticking to it.
Dr. Billy Pritchard
Dr. Billy Pritchard is a native of Winn Parish, Louisiana. He and his wife, Lisa, came to Episcopal in 2015 after spending the previous decade in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Pritchard is a 1999 graduate of the Louisiana School of Math, Science, and the Arts. In addition, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Centenary College of Louisiana, a master’s degree from Ole Miss and doctorate from SUNY-Buffalo. Dr. Pritchard teaches U.S. History, Honors AP U.S. History, American Presidency and the Civil Rights Movement.
A delegation of twenty-five Episcopal students were an energetic force at the Youth Legislature conference that took place from Thursday through Saturday, December 5 - December 7. Juniors Abhay Basireddy and Robert Xing passed a clean energy bill that won recognition as an Outstanding Bill by the State Conference. Xing and Basireddy’s bill, titled "Clean Energy for Louisiana Through Nuclear Power" was one of only a handful to be passed by both legislative chambers at the conference, where roughly four hundred students from throughout the state took part. Senior Joe Patterson and Junior Tucker Harrell saw their bill out of committee and passed by the House of Representatives. Ninth graders Sarah Theriot and Shreya Kamath shepherded their bill out of committee, and Episcopal students worked together as a coordinated “tag team” to support the bill and bring it to within five votes of passage in the House of Representatives.
Every student had a chance to write and debate bills in committee on Thursday night, when roughly 40 Senate bills and 140 House bills were debated by smaller committees of around 20 student legislators each. On Friday, the conference moved from the Holiday Inn to the new State Capitol building, where students discussed and amended bills from the desks of State Representatives and State Senators, giving them a first-hand experience with democracy in action.
On the final day’s plenary session, which combined both the Senate and House chambers, Episcopal students energetically debated several bills, posing constitutional challenges, and enlivening the debate. Hudson Graham, Nick Delahaye, Sean Brooks, Charlie Roth, Adam Azmeh, Robert Xing, Gregory Field, Shreya Kamath, and Matthew Bickham all participated actively in the joint session. Ninth graders Tanvi Dhaka and Mia Pulliam also vigorously defended the constitutionality of their bill when it was challenged in the State Supreme Court, as did junior Adam Azmeh and senior Sean Brooks.
Participation in Youth Legislature at Episcopal has grown from an initial group of just five students in 2016 to twenty-five this year, our largest delegation ever! In February, Episcopal will send a delegation to attend the state Model United Nations Conference, where students will debate global issues.
This year’s delegation included ninth graders Akshay Basireddy, Tanvi Dhaka, Jacob Jones, Shreya Kamath, Carter McLean, Mia Pulliam, and Sarah Theriot; tenth graders Emily Berg and Ellie Williams; eleventh graders Saad Ali, Adam Azmeh, Abhay Basireddy, Matthew Bickham, Nick Delahaye, Gregory Field, Julia Frazer, Fox Garon, Tucker Harrell, Charlie Roth, and Robert Xing; twelfth graders Sean Brooks, Hudson Graham, Hayley Gregoire, Joseph Patterson, and Ryan Whaley.
Edwin Way is an Upper School social studies teacher. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics with high honors from Swarthmore College as well as a Master of Arts in political science and East Asian studies. He grew up overseas living in Egypt, Burkina Faso and Denmark, and worked and taught for a number of years in China. Edwin has taught at both the secondary and university level, and led several groups of college students on study abroad experiences in eastern China.
Congratulations to the 2019-2020 Newton Distinguished Faculty Award recipients!
Episcopal School of Baton Rouge is extremely honored to recognize three talented and thriving faculty members. They are true gifts to our students, to our community and we are pleased that they have been chosen for this recognition. This year's honorees celebrated with Patty and Carl Newton, Head of School Hugh McIntosh and members of the Administrative Council this week.
About The Newton Upper School Distinguished Faculty Award
Patty and Carl Newton established the Newton Distinguished Faculty Award seven years ago because they believe that excellent teachers make a tremendous difference in the lives of students. The Newtons are very grateful for the positive impact that the teachers at Episcopal had on their two children. Each year, three Newton Distinguished Faculty recipients are selected and awarded a stipend in support of their continued professional development.
Read more about this year's award recipients below:
Past Recipients Include:
Congratulations to the 2019 Penniman Scholars. This year’s honorees are:
Episcopal is honored to award the Penniman Scholarship on an annual basis to a sixth grader, seventh grader and eighth grader. The scholarship was established in Mary Virginia Penniman’s memory and is an on-going reminder of the devotion of one of the school’s founders for his commitment to Episcopal and its students. The Episcopal community is grateful to have the continued leadership of a founding member for over 50 years.
I love learning. In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons I couldn’t do anything but teach if I wanted to because there’s so many opportunities to continue to learn and grow each year, right alongside my students. I enjoy any chance I have for professional or personal development to help make my classroom the best learning environment for my students. That’s why, when I was able to attend the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Creative Constructor Lab in October of this year with my colleagues Betsy Minton, Stacy Hill, and Rosalyn Won, I jumped at the chance.
A Conference Recap
The ISTE Creative Constructor Lab, held in New Orleans this year, is “an interactive learning experience that uncovers how to create vibrant, media-rich learning environments to help grow the next generation of creators,” according to their “about” page. Really, though, it was an opportunity for educators to play with media and design in order to better help our students learn to create. Some of the sessions we experienced included spontaneous construction with index cards, being let loose in the French Market after a crash-course on photography and videography with the charge to “create a piece that displays how New Orleans looks, moves, sounds, smells, and tastes,” making masks with lights and circuits, learning how to podcast, constructing stop-motion animations, experiencing virtual reality flying and augmented reality games, and working together to design solutions to a problem.
The most important thing I took away from the conference was the idea that integrating more design thinking into my classes will better serve my students, for multiple reasons. Besides the fact that it can be a fun way to learn and can help students explore their interests, design thinking has been shown to provide a host of benefits for students. From allowing more opportunities for them to develop empathy when viewing problems they need to solve from different perspectives, to challenging them to hack existing models and systems, to permitting them the opportunity to solve problems in creative and innovative ways. Design thinking also allows students to think more divergently, create connections between subjects (and also with the “real world”), and take creative risks. The method of several prototypes, revisions, and reflections expands their knowledge because they sometimes have to explore a topic more in depth to be able to create what they want, contributing to their practical, life and career skills. While it doesn’t always work for every project in every subject, it can certainly be incorporated from time to time.
Connections to Design Studio
Episcopal is already familiar with these benefits, which is why we have the Design Studio (initially created in conjunction with our NuVuX program) and the courses connected with it. Often, design thinking is more closely associated with STEM courses, simply by virtue of those fields attempting to create problem-solving designs. For example, our first round of design studio courses involved designing assistive devices for children with developmental disorders, outfitting sports equipment to prevent injury, identifying ways to assist people still recovering from the 2016 flood, and developing a better method for safely harvesting community fruit in Baton Rouge as part of the City Citrus program. All of these are very practical and often very closely tied with engineering. However, design thinking can also lend itself to humanities courses and is already an important part of the arts. For example, last year, English teachers Kealy Duke and Karin DeGravelles taught courses on Neuroplasticity and Communication and Writing to Influence, respectively. I’m currently teaching one on Multisensory Storytelling in which students are thinking about the role stories play in our everyday lives and how we can enhance stories to allow audiences to experience them more fully. Between teaching this course and my time at the conference, I’ve become convinced in our need to incorporate design thinking into more aspects of my classes. Enter the Maker Kitchen.
I wanted to share one particularly helpful session with my colleagues that speaker and educator Kenneth Shelton led at the conference titled “Maker Kitchen.” The activity is designed much like the television show “Chopped,” where contestants are required to cook specific types of meals under a time limit. They may use a fully stocked pantry to supplement their dishes, but they must use all the ingredients provided in their baskets whether they include kale or pickled pigs feet.
For our activity, Upper School faculty were divided into two sets each of groups A, B, and C. The goal was for each group to “use the supplies provided to create a project that provides the viewer with a sense of the subject matter and which will give a sense of the story of the purpose of the project.” However, in order to demonstrate the types of limits that some schools experience (and also to foster creativity out of necessity) the following rules applied within the thirty-minute time limit:
Pritchard provided a professional development activity for her Upper School colleagues based on her conference experience. The photos depict what each group created within their given parameters.
At the end of our adventure, we had quite an array of projects – from an interpretive art piece that brought a monster to life to an airplane that took off from a paper bag runway to a windmill to a commentary on the pollution of our waterways. There was a lot of creative problem-solving, collaboration, cross-curricular work, re-purposing of items beyond what they were originally intended for, and chances for people to display skills they may not normally get the opportunity to.
There was also a lot of laughter. And some competitiveness. One A group considered taking everything from the pantry to prevent the others from having access to the items, though they decided to be good sports in the end. One C group initially attempted completing their project without any items from the pantry, but decided to relent and chose their five items wisely. Both B groups were very strategic in their pantry choices, with one group spending quite some time in terse negotiation.
Overall, the feedback I received from my colleagues was that they’d like to brainstorm ways to incorporate more design thinking into their own classrooms if they don’t already do so. I also believe that they now see it as a much more accessible tool on a daily basis rather than having to take a trip to the actual Design Studio and knowing how to use the 3-D printer or the laser cutter. Scissors and some felt or cardboard work just as well. But the most important takeaway? Learning can always be playful.
Lisa Pritchard has been a member of the English Department at Episcopal since 2015 and attempts to foster the same love of reading and writing in her students that she gained from her own teachers. Previously, she lived and worked at her alma mater, the Buffalo Seminary, as English Department Chair and a residential house director where she had the opportunity to play house mom to interesting students from around the world. She earned her Master of Arts degree in English at the University of Buffalo and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and French at Centenary College of Louisiana.
Diplomat for a Day
Congratulations to junior Alex Nelson! Alex was one of four Louisiana students selected to be a French Diplomat for the Day through the French Consulate in New Orleans. Alex and her fellow student diplomats had the opportunity to shadow the Consul General of France Vincent Sciama. You can learn more about the day by clicking here.
Tops in Math
Congratulations to fifth grader Nate McLean! Nate won first place in the Louisiana Elementary Math Olympiad at Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School. Congratulations also to Meg Kantrow who placed in the top 25 and Episcopal participants, Tripp Veillon and Diya Kankar. Way to go Lower School Knights!
Red Stick Bowl Selection
Senior center Griff Strain has been selected to play in the Red Stick Bowl. The game features top senior players from East Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes. The action gets underway Saturday, December 21st at 2 pm at Zachary High School.
Congratulations to Leland, Lucy and Molly Cramer! The Cramers will compete in the 2019 Amateur Athletic Union Cross Country National Championship in Knoxville, TN on December 7th! Lucy (5th) and Molly (4th) will run the 3K and Leland (1st) will compete in the 2K. The Cramers qualified for the national competition after competing in the Southern District Championships in Hammond. Molly had the fastest time among nine and 10 year olds, Lucy was second and Leland was second among 7 and 8 year olds.
Episcopal Yearbook Editor Earns Recognition
Congratulations to Mason LaFerney ’19! Mason won the top individual award in the Graphics/Artwork category for the 2018-2019 Episcopal "Accolade" yearbook design. Honorees were announced at the Fall 2019 JEA/Tom Bell Silver Scribe Yearbook Contest held at the Loyola University New Orleans School of Communication and Design. The contest was sponsored by the Press Club of New Orleans, the Journalism Education Association and Loyola University New Orleans. Mason is currently studying at Boston College.
From Knights to Tigers
Episcopal graduates are making an impact in college sports. As members of the LSU cross country team, Adele Broussard ’19 and Alicia Stamey ’17 were both named to the Louisiana Sports Writers Association 2019 All-Louisiana Cross Country women’s team. Adele was also named the Freshman of the Year after scoring in five of the seven meets she entered. Stamey scored in all six of the races she ran, including a second place finish at the Nicholls Invitational and a sixth place finish at the LSU Invitational.
All-America Team Honors
Welcome back! Members of the Class of 1994 and the Class of 2009 recently held reunions.
Mark your calendar for the next opportunity to reminisce at the upcoming Alumni Christmas party.
December 27 at 6 pm: Beau Soleil
Lights, Camera, Action!
Episcopal’s campus serves as the backdrop for a Bounce TV original Christmas movie. Crews were on campus recently filming “Greyson Family Christmas.” The film premieres Sunday, December 8th at 9 pm. Click here for additional air times.
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Mu Alpha Theta has had a busy month. On Saturday, November 9th we hosted our tournament that included 330 students from 21 schools. We had approximately 60 of our club members contribute to the tournament either with preparing materials ahead of time, setting up testing locations, running competitions, or presenting awards. We will be making a $500 contribution to the Food Bank with part of the proceeds from the tournament. Read about the Middle School team's results here.
In addition, on Saturday, November 16th we placed 2nd overall at the Ben Franklin Mu Alpha Theta tournament in New Orleans. Results of that tournament are below.
1st Joie Lee
2nd Lauren McGrath
1st Justin Dynes
2nd Arya Patel
Honorable Mention Gregory Field
1st Algebra 2 Math Bowl – Thomas O’Connor, Akshay Basireddy, Sacha Dernoncourt, and Scott McAdams
1st Pre-Calculus Math Bowl – Eugene Jiang, Joy Lee, and Aadit Narayanan
2nd Calculus Math Bowl – Matthew Bickham, Gregory Field, Ryan Field, and Justin Dynes
2nd Geometry Team – Joie Lee and Ayush Patel
3rd Algebra 2 Team – Analise Hyde, Ella Harper, and Joey Roth
1st Calculus Team – Elaine Gboloo, Adam Reid, and Shuhei Niwano
Joan Moroney began teaching in 2007. She has taught Honors Geometry, Algebra II, and Honors Algebra II at Episcopal and is a co-sponsor of the Mu Alpha Theta math competition team. Before coming to Episcopal in 2014, Joan taught high school credit math courses to gifted students at Glasgow Middle School in Baton Rouge. She has a Bachelor of Science in secondary mathematics education from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in education from Louisiana State University in gifted education.
When Newsweek released its list of the Top 500 STEM High Schools in America last week, one school in the Baton Rouge region was in the top 500 – Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. The school was ranked the number one STEM high school in Baton Rouge. Episcopal also ranks seventh in the state of Louisiana and 448th nationally.
Many people know Episcopal for its rigorous academic offerings, its abundant arts programs, the opportunities provided to compete as part of a sports team or the range of character development and service learning activities. Now the school has earned national recognition for its science, technology, engineering and math offerings. For Episcopal Dean of Academics Dr. Sara Fenske, earning a spot in the top 500 is a testament to the school’s whole child philosophy of education.
STEM Starts Early
Dr. Fenske says Episcopal’s STEM efforts begin well before students enter Upper School. “Our Lower and Middle School efforts feed into what happens in Upper School,” she says. She points to successful programs such as Girls Who Code, Fab Shop and Maker Space. Even the littlest Knights have the opportunity for STEM learning as they work with technology such as Bee Bots, Bloxels and Root robots. “These programs help to make STEM more accessible to students,” says Dr. Fenske. She says the Lower and Middle School offerings make STEM learning fun and attract more students to the field. Hopefully, such experiences will inspire students to continue pursuing their interest in STEM throughout their educational journey.
Personalized Learning Encourages Exploration
Dr. Fenske says Episcopal’s personalized approach to learning also creates a STEM-friendly learning environment. “Students who are ready can accelerate in math and science in Middle School to ensure that they are challenged appropriately,” she says. At the same time, other students who are not yet ready to accelerate in Middle School have a range of challenging courses from which to choose. This allows all students the opportunity to explore a variety of STEM topics and see success in those courses. They then have opportunities to take college-level courses such as AP Calculus BC, AP Physics, AP Environmental Science, and AP Computer Science, as well as a selection of post-AP courses.
There is a balance to providing a variety of courses which appeal to a broad audience of students. When you get this balance right, students are able to excel in numerous areas because of the encouragement and support they receive. This explains why at Episcopal a student can perform with the Upper School select choir, be a member of the swim team and take advanced math and science courses all in the same school year.
ESTAAR and More
“Any mention of Episcopal and STEM must include a mention of the ESTAAR program,” says Dr. Fenske. “We are placing high school students into university labs to do independent research. It doesn’t get more authentically STEM than that.” ESTAAR or Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research began during the 2012/2013 school year. Interested students are partnered with a university professor and have the opportunity for hands-on lab work. Dr. Fenske says ESTAAR students are not necessarily the “math and science” type. They are students who self-select the course because of a love of STEM. In addition to ESTAAR, Episcopal also offers students extracurricular STEM opportunities such as Mu Alpha Theta in Upper School and Math Counts in Middle School. (Last weekend, the Middle School team took third place in the high school tournament! Read more from James Moroney here.) Both competitive math programs attract a range of students from cheerleaders and soloists to athletes and actors. The Episcopal Fab Shop also provides hands-on STEM learning experiences which appeal to a range of students.
Episcopal continues to find ways to support STEM learning. In 2018, school leaders celebrated the opening of the 27,000 square foot Academic Commons, a building that now serves as the hub for Upper School math and science. Work is now underway on the 14,700 square foot Quest Center which will serve as a center for experiential-based learning and exploration for Lower and Middle School students.
The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs, with computer occupations accounting for nearly 45 percent. According to Newsweek, “The STEM skills that only specialists have today will be expected of virtually everyone in the American workforce tomorrow.” It’s good to know that Episcopal is on the forefront of preparing tomorrow’s leaders for these fields of the future, while at the same time providing an array of creative, athletic and spiritual opportunities.
To read more about Episcopal STEM opportunities, click on the links below.
Not Just for Engineers: Four Real World Skills Coding Cultivates
From Bots to Binary Messages: A Look at Computer Science at Episcopal
Budding Scientists: Science Education in Early Childhood
Raising Tomorrow’s Critical Thinkers Today
Why Can’t We Just Send Them Water? Science Lesson Elicits Thoughtful Response
On November 9th, 21 Middle School students competed in our Mu Alpha Theta Tournament at Episcopal. We competed in Division 1 against nearly 200 students from around Louisiana, including Catholic High School and Baton Rouge High School.
Our team finished third in sweepstakes in the entire Division 1, which is incredible considering we only competed with our Middle School students and our high school students didn’t compete at all. Congratulations to our students for a great showing. The results are below.
Nate McLean (5th grader) - Third Place
Harrison Willett - Second Place
Blaise Richard - 3rd place
Luke Stelly - 2nd place
Cameron Augustine - 1st place
Hayden Willett - Honorable Mention
Hayden Singh - Honorable Mention
Joie Lee - 2nd place
Ivy Jiang - Honorable Mention
Joey Roth - Honorable Mention
James Moroney is a versatile teacher having taught English and math in addition to coaching volleyball and soccer. Most recently, he taught sixth grade math, Algebra I Honors and Geometry Honors at Our Lady of Mercy in Baton Rouge. James was named the Our Lady of Mercy Teacher of the Year for the 2015/2016 school year and received the Christian Life Award in 2017. He has served as a MATHCOUNTS team coach, the Junior Beta Club head sponsor and the Youth Legislature co-sponsor. James earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Louisiana State University in English with a concentration in secondary education. He is the author of Challenging Common Core Math Lessons: Grade 6.
According to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the higher the level of education, the lower the unemployment rate.” Higher levels of education also mean higher earning potential over a lifetime. As a college preparatory school, 100 percent of Episcopal seniors earn admission into a university, with many attending highly selective institutions. Episcopal students are assisted by three full-time college counselors who help them through the entire college admissions journey. This journey can be intense, and it may have parents and students wondering, is there a secret formula for getting accepted into the right university? College Counseling Director Justin Fenske shares the top five qualities that colleges are looking for in an applicant. Keep in mind that these qualities can change depending on the student and the school.
1. Academic Success
When it comes to taking that next step in the educational journey, being able to show that you’ve done well in your high school courses is important. A strong transcript showing academic success and growth is a good indicator to a college admissions officer that the student understands the subject matter and is ready for more advanced college-level course work.
2. Challenging Courses
Students should also be mindful of the courses they choose. Fenske advises students to take courses that show a preference for challenging subject matter while also allowing them to be academically successful. He says students should not simply enroll in a higher-level course to pad their transcript.
3. Extracurricular Passion
You have the right grades in all the right courses, now what? Fenske says colleges want to see a commitment to an extracurricular activity. However, this does not mean the student should participate in every activity offered. Fenske says a deep involvement in a few activities is meaningful on an application. He says students can explore numerous possibilities while still in Middle School and by the time they are a sophomore or junior in Upper School they can devote more time to activities they particularly enjoy. Being able to show a progression in involvement over the years is also a plus. For example, a student may start out helping backstage in a theater production and eventually mature to be a leader in the theater department.
4. Required Test Scores
Yes, testing is certainly still a factor in college admissions. Luckily, Episcopal has a robust testing preparation program. Counselors help students understand the types of test questions, how to study and how to efficiently manage the allotted test time. There are even test boot camps that simulate the testing environment. Students take practice tests and have the opportunity to discuss errors with teachers before taking the actual exam. This sort of test prep is garnering impressive results. Students are earning National Merit recognition for their performance on the PSAT. Student scores are also translating into college admissions and scholarship dollars.
5. Tell Your Story
Fenske says students need to tell their story in their college application, and that story needs to make them stand out among the crowd of other applicants. He advises students to do something interesting that garners recognition beyond school. For example, thousands of students attend a sports or theater camp each year. A unique story would be to create your own camp or serve as a leader at an existing camp. Fenske has also helped students tell the story of juggling a full-time job or extensive personal obligations while maintaining a strong GPA and a commitment to school life. A unique story goes a long way in helping a student garner the attention to earn admission.
The college admissions journey can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Episcopal’s college counseling program is serving students well, with 100 percent of seniors earning acceptance into college, including many highly selective institutions. Fenske says ultimately the counselors want to help students find the best match based on their individual goals and projected career path. Finding that right fit and moving on to the next step in life is extremely rewarding for students, families and even the counselors who have assisted along the way. As the Class of 2020 begins to announce their college decisions it will be exciting to see where the journey takes them. Look for college announcements coming soon and please join us in congratulating these students on completing this important milestone.
Meet the Episcopal College Counselors
Have questions for our College Counselors? Leave a comment or ask a question below.